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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Clashes as Bolivia miners protest

More than 20,000 miners have marched into the Bolivian city of La Paz, throwing dynamite on their way, to protest against a proposed tax rise.

Parts of La Paz were paralysed by the blasts and clashes between miners and passers-by. Police said they had seized more than 270 sticks of dynamite.

The miners say the tax would be unfair on small independent co-operatives.

The march went ahead despite a government announcement on Monday that co-operatives' taxes would be frozen.

Officials said the tax increase would be directed at larger private mining companies.

Bolivia's mineral exports were worth more than $1bn (£507m) last year, but the government says it only collected $45.5m in taxes from the mining sector. It is hoping to recoup $80m in mining taxes.

Some 50,000 miners are members of co-operatives. Last year, a group of them were involved in deadly clashes with miners from the state sector over control of a pewter mine.

President Evo Morales has said he plans to nationalise the country's mining sector.
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